May 5, 2010

Fantasy Forest Books – Welcoming Kids to the Dungeon One Choice at a Time

In my box of adventure, I found four Fantasy Forest books:

#1 The Ring, the Sword, and the Unicorn by Jim “Gamma World” Ward

#2 Ruins of Rangar by Michael Carr

#5 Dungeon of Darkness by John Kendall

#6 Star Rangers and the Spy and the Spy by Jean Blashfield and Beverly Charette

So far, my wife and I have read #1 and #2 to Chaos, with #1 being her clear favorite. It’s pretty hard to beat a unicorn for little girl appeal. Although Ruins of Rangar has a pegasus on the cover, it more or less has a cameo appearance and Chaos wasn't too impressed.  I’m guessing the cover of Dungeons of Darkness is a bit too creepy for her and Star Rangers might be too sci-fi (she has never shown much interest in spaceships and such).

There has been much hullabaloo about WotC's new D&D for kids venture, Monster Slayers.  They have a free adventure, Heroes of Hesoid,  here: link and a Monster Slayers story book here: link.   Troll Lord Games is onto this as well with their Harvesters RPG (as well as the eternally delayed Castles & Crusades Basic).

I think this is great. Like the cigarette industry, we need to hook 'em while they're young!  Seriously, though, it is great to see people realizing there is a market for kid-friendly RPGs.  When I started this blog, I thought I was in a minority, but I've realized there are tons of gaming parents out there.  A lot of them, myself included, want a way to share our hobby with our kids.

I think WotC, and any other gaming company, would do well to revisit Choose Your Own Adventure-style books.  They really are a great gateway to the fun of role playing.  My daughter can't get enough of them.  What is really cool is that these books use the monsters and the artistic styles from the game.  The dragon art in The Ring, the Sword... is done in the same style as the 1st edition Monster Manual and stirges attack the the heroes in the Ruins of Rangar.  (I'll put up some pictures of the art in a bit.)

I keep thinking of this quote:
Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed. - G. K. Chesterton

My daughter is kind of a scaredy cat, much like I was at that age (hell, I would literally run out of the room when David Banner hulked out on the old "Incredible Hulk" TV show).  But these books have the kid as the hero (or at least as a brave side-kick).  In The Ring..., the kid is riding a unicorn and battling orcs and dragons.  In Ruins..., the kid is wielding a dagger and kicking skeletons to bits (notice how the hero is smart enough to not even attempt a piercing weapon. ha!).  This sort of crystallizes an un-hearlded benefit of gaming for kids.  Sure, there are monsters in it.  But the players' goal is to slay those monsters, overcome traps, and save the day.  More importantly, they have the means and powers to do so.

To this day, my wife is amazed that I, as a kid, didn't have nightmares about all those pictures in the Monster Manual.  Like I said, I was a chicken-shit.  So why didn't I?  Because the monsters were there to be slain.  That goblin only had 1 hit die and I knew my 3rd level fighter could bash its brains in with his morningstar.

These Fantasy Forest books are great way to show kids the fun of gaming.  The kid gets to be the hero and, really, who doesn't want that?

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